Scottsdale, AZ - The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 have sharpened schools' focus on ensuring successful strategies and outcomes for all students, including those with special needs. This push for academic results, coupled with the high cost of special education programs, is prompting school districts to look for new ways to target instruction and interventions to address students' diverse needs and close learning gaps.
An increasing number of school districts around the country are finding that the best solution is one that is already being used in their schools with positive results. The SuccessMaker? Enterprise comprehensive courseware system from Pearson Digital Learning is one of the most widely used digital courseware systems in K-12 education. And while the award winning, research based system has long been used to improve the achievement of general education students, its use with special populations is gaining momentum.
Improving Achievement at Julian Union Elementary
For example, Julian Union Elementary in rural Julian, Calif. implements SuccessMaker Enterprise to provide focused interventions for students scoring at the Basic and Below Basic levels on the California Standards Test. In addition, the school has found that SuccessMaker works particularly well for special education students.
"I truly love that the program works for everybody, but I was really impressed by how well our special education students - including our severely handicapped students - have responded to SuccessMaker Enterprise," said Kevin Ogden, superintendent of the Julian Union School District. "Special ed has so many different levels and every student's need is completely individualized. SuccessMaker's embedded assessment provides the perfect tool for teachers to pace students at their own unique learning level. All of our severely handicapped students scored advanced on the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) test."
Addressing Math Needs at Reynoldsburg Junior High School
Reynoldsburg Junior High School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio uses SuccessMaker to provide individualized instruction in mathematics in all classrooms. Kelly Wood, intervention specialist at Reynoldsburg Junior High, examined the effect of SuccessMaker Math on students with learning disabilities in inclusive and special education classrooms.
Eighteen students were tracked across a two-year period, and an additional 28 students were tracked across a one-year period. Both groups spent at least 16 minutes a day and a minimum of 80 minutes per week on SuccessMaker. For the first group, 78 percent were able to move into regular education math classrooms after two years of using SuccessMaker. Eighty-eight percent of the learning disabled participants achieved at least one year of growth.
In an article published in the "Journal of Teacher Initiated Research" at Otterbein College, Wood wrote, "Compare the instructional time spent on SuccessMaker with ten 80-minute classroom block periods of instruction a month and the significance of SuccessMaker Math becomes more evident. Students spend a total of 800 minutes or 13.55 hours a month in classroom instruction for a total of 120.07 hours per academic year. This is a difference of approximately 95.35 additional hours teachers spend in classroom instruction in order to make, optimistically, one year's worth of growth. Student learning becomes stronger because SuccessMaker Math actively engages students in learning activities, promotes competency, and focuses on effective instructional principles and achievement."
In the article's conclusion Wood noted, "Providing individualized, engaging, technology-based instruction to special education students proves successful on two fronts. First, it certainly demonstrates to the student learner that success and achievement are possible; second, it gives the classroom instructor the means to engage students while targeting necessary skills."
Addressing Reading Difficulties at Anderson Elementary
Anderson Elementary in Cheyenne, Wyo. uses SuccessMaker to help special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade overcome reading difficulties.
"SuccessMaker starts by evaluating each child's reading skills. Based on the results, each child receives tailored exercises in his or her areas of weakness. They spend 15 minutes on those tasks every day, alternating between basic skills, literature, free reading, skill building and comprehension. I think the key is that it does not replace the teacher; instead, it is a tool the teacher uses to provide individualized instruction," said Kathy Hauswirth, the former intermediate resource room teacher at Anderson Elementary. "In just a few years, our students showed remarkable improvement. Three of them actually left special services altogether."
"SuccessMaker takes the guesswork out of teaching," said Debbie Nelson, the primary resource room teacher at Anderson Elementary. "On any day, I can pull up reports and see what skills each child worked on and how he or she did. If a child doesn't get a concept the first time, the program will reintroduce the concept at a later time, typically the next time the child logs on. If the child still doesn't understand, it's reintroduced again. If the child doesn't get it on the third time, it's identified as an area of weakness. Then I can do some one-on-one work with the child."
Funding for Early Intervening Services
In fact, addressing reading difficulties is a critical challenge for schools nationwide, as children with reading problems are often misidentified as learning disabled and placed in costly, highly regulated special education programs. To help address this issue, the IDEIA now allows school districts to invest up to 15 percent of their special education funds on early intervention services. In the past, such funds could only be spent to educate students who had already been placed into special education programs. This legislation opens up a new way for educators to help any and all students who might be struggling - thereby helping to prevent students from ever being referred to special education and reducing costs to districts.
"Since most students are referred to special education in their second or third grade year, the need for early interventions is enormous. The IDEIA gives school districts the flexibility to use up to 15 percent of their special education funding to purchase solutions, such as digital courseware, to help prevent the reading and math difficulties that plague many students identified as needing special education. If this can keep, for example, 10 students per year out of special education, it can create substantial savings for the school and district," said Peggy Kinder, vice president of education for Pearson Digital Learning. "An additional benefit is that the system can then be used to individualize instruction with general education and gifted students as well, furthering the district's return on investment.
"The bottom line is that SuccessMaker is a tool that help special needs students catch up with their peers, achieve their potential, and ensure that they are not left behind," said Kinder.
About SuccessMaker Enterprise
SuccessMaker? Enterprise is an adaptive learning environment that offers a powerful combination of management system, assessment, and curriculum resources to provide administrators, teachers, and students with tools to improve academic performance. Based on more than 40 years of research and results, SuccessMaker has an extensive track record unmatched by any other system currently available. SuccessMaker's powerful management system, Results Manager, provides reporting necessary to individualize instruction, maximize accountability, and promote data-driven decision making.
About Pearson Digital Learning
At Pearson Digital Learning our mission is to provide innovative, research-based digital learning solutions that elevate the art and science of teaching, and inspire children to reach their greatest potential. Reaching more than 20 million students annually, our products include: the SuccessMaker? Enterprise and NovaNET? educational courseware; and the KnowledgeBox? digital learning system. Pearson Digital Learning is also the exclusive distributor for the Waterford Early Reading Program? and Waterford Early Math & Science?, adaptive computer-based instruction developed by the Waterford Institute.
Pearson Digital Learning is part of Pearson Education the world's leading integrated education company, which in turn is part of Pearson (NYSE: PSO) the international media company. More information can be found at: http://www.PearsonDigital.com/.
Leslie Eicher, APR @ 314-965-1776 or Leslie@EicherCommunications.com